It’s that time of year again when blogs, Twitter and Facebook explode with Bible reading plans for the New Year. The provision of this material, with the tradition of New Year’s resolutions, lead many Christian’s to resolve to reading the whole Bible in a year.
However, after embarking on our reading plan which will get us through the Bible in a year, we often stumble. Once we’ve missed one or two days reading completing the plan begins to look like an insurmountable challenge. Therefore, many of us have read Genesis (and perhaps even Exodus, up to Chapter 20 anyway) numerous times – but often haven’t made it any further!
Now, don’t get me wrong – the Bible reading plans are of great benefit, having a great knowledge of Genesis is beneficial, and making resolutions to read the Bible in a year is indeed honourable – but I am not going to offer Bible reading plans (well, maybe one or two near the end). Rather, I want to offer three theological reasons for reading the Bible and three practical reasons we should read the whole Bible every year.
All this comes with a caveat however. Reading the Bible through in a year is not a must, and these reasons are not necessarily aimed at convincing you to read the Bible through in a year. Rather, these are encouragements for those who have decided to read the Bible through in a year to continue with it…
Theological Reasons for Reading the Bible
1) The whole of the Bible is about Jesus – The first theological reason for reading the Bible is because it is all about Jesus. Repeatedly in the Gospels Jesus, and his disciples, make it explicit that all of Scripture is about him (Lk. 11:29-32; 24:25-27; Jn. 1:45). Therefore, it is not enough for us just to read a Gospel or two and a few of our favourite passages from Paul’s letters each year. Rather, we should be reading all of God’s Word because all of God’s Word points to Jesus and shows us more of him. As I read all of God’s Word I begin to see with more strength the pointers to Jesus from every section of Scripture.
2) The Bible is precious – Secondly, we should endeavour to read the Bible because it is precious. Undoubtedly Psalm 119 is the most famous portion of Scripture concerning God’s very own Word. In this Psalm we are told in no uncertain terms that the Bible is very precious. This is how it describes God’s Word: wondrous (v18), delightful (v24), truth (v43), comforting (v50), righteous (v62), precious (v72), steadfast (v89), wisdom (v98), sweet (v103), joy (v111), salvation (v155) and enduring (v160). I have found God’s Word becoming more precious to me as I become better acquainted with it by reading.
3) The Bible is beneficial – The third theological reason for reading the Bible is that it is beneficial. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 describe the benefits of God’s Word for us ‘All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work’. We should not be neglecting this Word and the more time I spend reading it the more God uses it to challenge me and equip me for every good work.
Practical Reasons for Reading the Bible Through in a Year
1) Storyline – First, reading the whole of the Bible in one year gives us a better perspective of the biblical storyline. Reading large chunks of the Bible often, moving through the books of the Bible at a brisk pace, tends to give us the grand sweep of the biblical storyline. The practical benefit of this is that, as we listen to our Pastor’s sermon series in Daniel, or read the latest John Piper book on the Apostle Paul, or complete our own bible study on Judges, we come to see where in the Bible’s storyline line these events happen. This understanding aids our biblical theology, our application of texts to today and our linking of all texts to Jesus.
2) Familiarity – Some say that familiarity breeds contempt. However, to be unfamiliar with something suggests it is unimportant. The second practical reason for reading the whole of the Bible in a year is to create a familiarity with Biblical history and literature. This would occur if we were to read the Bible through in a year just once as Kings and Chronicles covers the same period of time (albeit with different emphasis), the prophets speak into the history divulged in Kings and Chronicles and all four Gospels document Jesus life, death and resurrection (albeit for slightly different purposes). However, this practical reason is undoubtedly enhanced by a continued re-reading of the whole Bible in a year. As we move through the whole of the Bible every year we begin to develop a familiarity with biblical history and literature.
3) Difficult passages – The third practical reason follows on from the previous reasons. Most Christians, if asked, would be honest in admitting that parts of Scripture appear boring, uninspiring and that a whole lot of it is just downright difficult to understand. This is reflected in how we then read the Bible. Lots of us read daily devotionals which only offer one verse a day, some of us just re-read books we enjoy like Ruth, Mark, and Philippians. However, if we read all of the Bible in a year we force ourselves to read those difficult books and passages like 1 Chronicles 1-9, Ecclesiastes and Revelation. Therefore, we develop a much more balanced understanding of the Bible.
As much as I would love to say these three theological reasons for reading the Bible and three practical reasons for reading the whole Bible in a year demand that each and every Christian do it, I can’t. There is nowhere in Scripture that commands us to read the whole Bible in a year, there is no Church history which shows it was the common practice among the majority of Christians and I have no authority to demand it of you.
However, I do think that the reasons we have noted above demand that again this January we resolve to be more devoted to the Bible (no matter how much of it we read, nor how quickly) – in reading, in hearing and in doing. This book is unlike any other, breathed out by God, bringing many benefits. It is precious beyond all our earthly possessions and points us to Jesus. Therefore, it is good for us to become acquainted with the grand storyline, biblical history and literature and the difficult passages.
If you have decided to read the whole Bible in a year I would recommend For the Love of God or the NIV Chronological Bible.
For the Love of God – This reading plan offers four chapters a day (taking you through the New Testament and Psalms twice in one year) with a brief comment by D. A. Carson. The biggest drawback to this reading plan is that some readings can be very long.
NIV Chronological Bible – It is very interesting to read Scripture chronologically as opposed to how the books are set out in our Bibles. This is beneficial when it comes to appreciating the situations the prophets speak into. However, the New Testament is neglected in this reading plan (you do not reach it until November).